Maruti Udyog Ltd, which sells half the cars in the country, plans to introduce eight new models or variants—three more than it had earlier announced.
Maruti will introduce zippier cars, which will replace some existing sedans such as the Baleno, say vendors who have been asked to supply parts for the new models. The models for which they have been asked to supply parts include three-box versions of the Swift and SX4, which sell as hatchbacks in Europe and Japan.
These models will replace the Baleno this year, said some vendors, who did not wish to be named. They said they have already stopped making parts for the Baleno, and the company may be debating whether to scrap the popular Esteem model.
The entry of Swift and SX4 sedans mark a bid by Maruti to increase its marketshare in the mid-sized car segment, where it lags behind rivals such as Honda Siel Cars India, Ford India and Tata Motors.
The country’s largest car maker has a 16% share of the sedan market compared with segment leader Honda’s 21%. (Around one in five cars sold in India is a mid-sized sedan.)
“Many Indians prefer threebox cars since it is a higher value proposition in terms of space and status,” said Manish Mathur, principal with consultant firm AT Kearney. Maruti officials didn’t reply to emails and calls seeking comment.
Last year, at the bi-annual New Delhi auto show, MUL managing director Jagdish Khattar had announced that company would launch five new models by 2010, which he didn’t name. So far, the company has launched the Zen Estilo, the Swift’s diesel-powered variant, and a tweaked WagonR which runs on a variant of cooking gas.
Car makers in India are rolling out as many as 50 new models and variants each year to increase sales in a market where customers switch cars frequently.
Honda Siel Cars India, for instance, will launch a new version of the City sedan, the largest selling mid-sized sedan in India, in 2008, the third rejig in five years.
Maruti, which recently inaugurated a 100,000-units-a-year plant in Manesar, Haryana, its second manufacturing unit, is also likely to launch variants of existing small and compact cars such as the Alto, a larger WagonR and a facelifted Omni.
Every seven out of 10 cars sold in the country is a compact car, which is also the second-fastest-growing segment.
This has prompted car makers such as General Motors India and Ford India to introduce new products in this category.
India’s market is growing rapidly and demand may cross 2.2 million units by 2010, from 1.3 million passenger vehicles now, according to the Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers.